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Friday, September 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 67.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Avalanche at the Capitol Square Sprints
Snow by the truckload at the third annual Nordic skiing spectacle
Open skiing at the Capitol Square Sprints started at dawn on Saturday.
Open skiing at the Capitol Square Sprints started at dawn on Saturday.
Credit:David Medaris

This weekend's Capitol Square Sprints are underway, with the third annual cross-country skiing festival continuing through Sunday night. Due to weather conditions, organizers have been forced to shorten the course. Instead of a full loop around the Capitol Square, they have modeled this year's course on one used for a spectator-friendly World Cup Nordic skiing event in Dusseldorf, Germany.

An enormous amount of time, planning and effort goes into Madison's annual Capitol Square Sprints cross-country skiing festival. Due to this year's unseasonable weather conditions, with temperatures above normal and no natural snow on the ground, all that work has been magnified.

At about 16 feet wide and 500 meters long, the course stretches from the Capitol's West Washington entrance up South Carroll Street to West Main, where it continues east to the intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Skiers will find a loop at either end of the course that facilitates turning around to continue another lap -- features that may match the artificial hill erected on Carroll Street as a technical challenge for this weekend's racing skiers. The finish line is on the Main Street side of the course, at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Nowhere is that effort more visible and impressive than Friday night, when the first of 60 truckloads of snow arrives on the Capitol Square to start a series of man-made avalanches, as shown in the video clip following below.

As shown in this clip of the fifth truck depositing its load of snow in yet another avalanche, organizers have already begun to roll and pack the previous truckloads into a course suitable for this weekend's cross-country ski racing, open skiing and family-oriented events.

The course is set and groomed at dawn on Saturday, when the first skiers arrive to take advantage of the open skiing.

Open skiing continues through 3 p.m. Saturday for classic stride-and-glide skiers, and resumes from 10:10 p.m. to midnight for both classic and skate skiers. More classic open skiing is scheduled for 7-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Sunday, with the course opening to classic and skate skiers from 6 -8 p.m. Sunday.

As this third clip of Saturday morning's early skiers suggests, temperatures in the high teens are rewarding skiers with almost ideal conditions. And with the forecast calling for a high in the upper 20s on Saturday, an overnight low in the upper teens and a Sunday high in the mid-20s with a chance of snow, it appears the efforts of Capitol Square Sprints organizers has also met with reward.

A full schedule of racing and family-oriented events is also on tap both days.

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